We’ve often heard, and said ourselves, “I’m too old for this,” well aging is a process that is unfortunately unstoppable. We will age, no matter what we do. However, there are things we can do to slow the progression down considerably.
It is no secret that exercise keeps you young, both in terms of energy and the physical ability to keep moving and doing the things you love. Not only does it boost the metabolism, but physical exercise can result in the release of mood-improving endorphins that make you feel great.
To be able to continue with cardiovascular exercises, well into old age, your body needs to be capable. There is nothing that will stop your fitness goals in its tracks faster than muscular discomfort and injury. To protect your joints and muscles it is imperative to stretch. This has wonderful fat burning and anti-aging properties. One of the best things you can do for your body, especially as you get older, is increase the range of motion through stretching. Stretching isn’t just something you do before you exercise but taking a few stretch breaks throughout the day can offer tremendous benefits, boosting physical and mental energy.
The Science behind Aging
Once you hit your 30s the connective tissue that basically holds your body together, including muscles, tendons and ligaments start to shorten and tighten. This loss of elasticity confines your range of movement and results in poor posture, impeded blood flow and even calcifications.
There is however a solution. No matter how old you are, flexibility can be regained through stretching. Muscles and tendons lengthen and it becomes easier to do those everyday things that were once an impossibility, like stretching to get something down off the shelf, or bending to tie ones shoes.
Tips for Stretching
- Follow a program that is specific to your activities and needs.
- Stretch regularly, at least three times a week.
- Warm up before stretching.
- Stretch only to the point where you feel tension in the belly of the muscle, not pain in the joint.
- Hold each stretch for 15 to 60 seconds.
- Do each stretch 2 to 4 times.
- Stay relaxed.
- Breathe throughout the stretch.
- Progress in a slow, controlled manner.
- Don’t bounce.
Here are three stretches that you can easily incorporate into your daily regime that will help turn back the clock with respect to your agility and even brain chemistry! These exercises won’t leave you panting and sweating but involve smooth, gentle movements that invigorate and make you feel and look younger.
- The Rise and Shine Stretch
This is a stretch recommended first thing in the morning. This stretch can reduce stiffness and energize your body.
Kneel on your hands and knees with your head, neck, and back in alignment. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, lower your chin toward your chest, pull in your belly, and round your back, like a cat arching. You will feel this down your back and shoulders. Hold, and then slowly return to the starting position. Next, arch your back, creating an inward curve with your buttocks lifted toward the ceiling and your head looking up just slightly. This you will feel throughout your back and abdominal muscles. Hold, and then repeat the sequence.
- Nerve Stretch
This stretch activates all the spinal nerves along the back and helps alleviate sciatica and back pain. It also energises you and improves range of movement, by activating neural pathways. This invigorating stretch activates all muscle groups and improves range of motion, as well as improving posture and muscle tone.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend from the hip, hanging your arms downwards in a relaxed manner. Bend only to the point of stretch and not discomfort. Hang with your head down for ten seconds. Then tuck your chin into your chest. You should feel a pull down your spine and even travelling down the back of your legs as the spinal nerves are activated.
- Twist and Shout
This stretch activates the abdominals and helps maintain posture and muscle tone, as well as improving rotational flexibility.
Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, hips facing forward, and abs tight. Gently twist your trunk to the right, and hold. You will feel this in your abdominal muscles, sides and back. Return to the starting position, and repeat to the left side. Next, gently lean to the right as you reach your left arm up toward the ceiling; curve it slightly overhead, palm down. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. Hold, and then repeat to the left side. You will feel this stretch in your sides and torso.
By just combining these three stretches, either with your exercise program or stretching routine you can improve range of motion, improve blood flow and flexibility and in so doing, literally slow aging down to a crawl. Stretching is preventative for osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease and arthritis, thus is you don’t stretch regularly, then start today! The sooner you begin, the sooner you will reap the anti-aging rewards and improve your quality of life.
- Ganong (2003): Review of Medical Physiology, 21st Edition, McGraw Hill Companies